Been all tied up in knots lately watching the Texas Rangers whip up on the formerly terribly troublesome Yankees. And while you may never have connected the situation, I delight in seeing the role that the Braves have played in all this. That’s right—the Braves, as in the fine hand of John Schuerholz. Yep, Schuerholz hisself, when he was general manager. Remember the deal he made back in ’07? When he sent five players to the Rangers for Mark Teixeira, a player the Braves had no chance of holding onto? While Teixeira sits it out with injury, the Rangers roll along with Elvis Andrus having a five-star performance at shortstop and Neftali Feliz giving the Yankees their answer to Mariano Rivera. Another pitcher in the deal, Matt Harrison, won 11 games last season before injury, and Saltolamacchia, the catcher, has since been traded to the Red Sox.
I saw Andrus play when he was on the Rome farm club, and could never have imagined him being traded away, leaving the Braves much troubled trying to find a fit at shortstop. (Remember Yunel Escobar, the Cuban mis-fit?)
Amazing the kind of solid team the Rangers have put together, in contrast to the $252-million plunge the former owner made that virtually bankrupt him, and the pursuit of Alex Rodriquez, who is now helping the Yankees get accustomed to losing. Seems that Nolan Ryan got there just in time, though I have no idea just how much his presence has meant in the making of these Rangers. He has become prominent in the television coverage. The Rangers began to muscle up with the addicted Josh Hamilton’s recovery from the damned. All along, Michael Young has been one of the best hitters in the major leagues. Elvis Andrus makes a stirring comparison on the same field beside Derek Jeter. While Bengie Molina may seem to be a surprise, he has been a solid addition behind the plate, and with the bat.
Most stirring contributor of all has been Cliff Lee, another product of pitching-rich Arkansas. His first performance against the Yankees put them to sleep. Two basehits, no runs, and total dominance. I’ll take him as my pitcher of the year. (Pitching-rich Arkansas? Check it out: Lon Warneke from Mt. Ida (“Mt. Idy,” if you’re homefolks), Schoolboy Rowe from Eldorado, Preacher Roe from Ash Flat, Ellis Kinder from Atkins and Johnny Sain from Havana.) Lee is a city-slicker–even went to the university– by comparison, came from Benton (pop.23,000). Lee is lean, hungry-looking and makes his delivery like an uncoiling reptile. It’s a real wild western story, watching these dudes undo the Yankees in their own billion-dollar palace.
Meanwhile, we Braves devotees stand by in waiting for the next season to break out. If you’ like to make your reservation, the first home game is April 8. The Phillies come to town, and these two can get at it again. Oh, and in parting, let me assure you I didn’t regret the departure of Melky Cabrera at all. Mainly, he spent the season here fattening on our groceries.